LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) has stopped law enforcers from continuing the operation at Zaman Park to arrest Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan till today (Thursday) morning.
LHC’s Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh gave the order. He was hearing a PTI plea filed by Fawad Chaudhry seeking to stop the “atrocities” outside Zaman Park.
Earlier, celebrations were in full swing Wednesday afternoon as law enforcers camped outside the PTI chief's Zaman Park home since yesterday started pulling back.
Shortly after the law enforcers pulled back, the Islamabad High Court reserved its verdict on a PTI plea seeking cancellation of the arrest warrant against Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case.
An intense stand-off between PTI supporters and law enforcers entered its second day Wednesday morning as the authorities started the day with a push for party chairman Imran Khan's arrest near his Zaman Park residence.
This was the second time in recent weeks that police were sent from Islamabad to Imran Khan's home in Lahore to serve an arrest warrant after he skipped several court dates citing security concerns.
PTI shared on Wednesday afternoon scenes from outside Zaman Park where jubilant PTI supporters could be seen celebrating.
"Police will not advance on Khan's residence until the ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL) 8 cricket match is over," sources quoted police officials as saying.
Police and other security officials were seen leaving Zaman Park.
After the withdrawal of the police, the PTI chief, too, came out of his residence in a mask and met the party's workers to encourage them.
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb, meanwhile, said PTI Chairman Imran Khan wants to spread anarchy, civil war and unrest in the country.
In a video statement on Wednesday, she said Imran is hiding from the police to "escape" from arrest and has "made women, children and the youth his shield".
“The government has no link with Imran Khan’s arrest,” said the minister.
She reminded that the PTI chief, during his tenure, jailed all his political opponents, adding that Imran Khan was giving an impression that the government was behind his arrest.
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So far, over 60 people, including policemen and citizens, have been injured in clashes that lasted more than 15 hours between PTI supporters and the police. The clashes continued well into the night while Imran Khan remained holed up at his Zaman Park residence. Police fought pitched battles with supporters of Khan's PTI near his residence throughout the night, firing fusillades of teargas and dodging rocks thrown by angry crowds. Some PTI workers were even taken into custody.
Taking to Twitter, the former prime minister shared a picture of the teargas shells allegedly used during the crackdown on his home.
"Latest attack by Rangers, pitting the largest pol party against the army. This is what PDM and the enemies of Pakistan want. No lessons learnt from the East Pakistan tragedy," said the PTI chief.
The PTI said in a video posted early Wednesday morning on Twitter that law enforcers had started tear gas shelling at Imran Khan’s residence again.
The residence of PTI chair is under attack, the party tweeted.
Meanwhile, the PTI chair said that it was clear that the "arrest claim" was "mere drama" and that the real intent is to "abduct" and "assassinate" him.
"From tear gas & water cannons, they have now resorted to live firing. I signed a surety bond last evening, but the DIG refused to even entertain it. There is no doubt of their mala fide intent," he tweeted.
In a separate tweet, Khan said: "After our workers & ldrship faced police onslaught since yesterday morning of tear gas, cannons with chemical water, rubber bullets & live bullets this morning; we now have Rangers taking over & are now in direct confrontation with the people."
The Islamabad High Court (IHC), while announcing the reserved verdict, asked Khan to move the lower court to cancel the arrest warrant issued in Toshakhana case.
Khan's legal team had filed a petition for an urgent hearing against the non-bailable arrest warrant for the PTI chief in the Toshakhana case, requesting to cancel the warrant, but the Registrar's Office had objected to Khan's petition, saying that his biometric verification hadn't been done.
The high court rejected the request for a hearing yesterday (Tuesday) and fixed it for today (Wednesday) instead. IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq is hearing the PTI plea.
In an early morning tweet, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said that the party will follow whatever order the high court passes.
At the outset of today's hearing, the IHC CJ asked the PTI if it had addressed the objections over its plea.
At this, lawyer Khawaja Haris replied that whatever is happening in Lahore is in front of the court.
“Whatever is happening is a result of your actions,” responded Justice Farooq.
The IHC CJ also told the counsel that the plea was yet to be fixed and he will hear it once it is fixed. Justice Farooq also asked about what happened on the relief that the court had given.
The court orders were not implemented, so we will see what result it will have, he added.
Haris, meanwhile, urged the court to fix the case for hearing at 12pm.
Later, the IHC CJ remarked that the Registrar Office had raised minor objections to the petition. He then stated that he was removing the biometric and signature objections.
“There is objection on tickets that can be removed in half an hour,” said the IHC CJ. However, in the order, the court asked the lawyers to address the objections within three days and adjourned the hearing.
Earlier, in a video shared on PTI’s Twitter account shortly before dawn, Khan, sitting in front of Pakistan and party flags at a desk decorated with spent teargas canisters, said: "I am telling the entire nation today that they are ready once again, they're going to come again".
"They will teargas our people and do other such things, but you should know that they have no justification to do so."
"The way the police attack our people... there is no precedent for this," Khan said.
"Water canons, teargas... they shelled inside the house where there were servants and women."
The PTI chief claimed that he was not appearing at the F-8 Katcheri as terrorists had targeted the facility twice.
“They know I did not appear because of security, now they are preparing again,” said the PTI chief.
The former prime minister also claimed that in order to “avoid anarchy”, he had signed an undertaking and his counsel Ishtiaq A Khan tried presenting the surety to the Islamabad police deputy inspector general (DIG) sent to arrest him.
“And as per code of criminal procedure’s section 76 if a surety bond is given to arresting officer then he cannot make the arrest,” said the PTI chief.
He further claimed that after this there was no reason for the police to arrest him. However, the PTI chief alleged that the DIG refused to take the bond on purpose as his arrest was part of the “London plan”.
“In the London plan, it has been decided to put Imran Khan in jail, defeat PTI, and finish all cases of Nawaz Sharif. Putting me in jail is part of the London plan. This has no relation with the law and I have not committed any crime,” said the PTI chief.
Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Dr Usman Anwar on Tuesday warned PTI activists of tougher action if they continued to resort to violence in their attempt to prevent the police from arresting their leader Imran Khan.
He said the violent protesters would be taken to task and apprehended with the help of CCTV footage as damaging public properties and setting police vehicles on fire came under the terrorism act and these protesters would be tried under that act.
The IGP said Islamabad police under the leadership of DIG Operations ICT Shahzad Bukhari reached Lahore to arrest former prime minister and PTI chairman Imran Khan for compliance with the non-bailable arrest warrant issued against him by additional sessions judge Zafar iqbal on Tuesday.
The Lahore police were told to accompany the Islamabad police team for compliance with the court orders, he added.
Dr Anwar said that as the police force reached the former prime minister’s house situated in Zaman Park in Lahore, the protesters started pelting stones at the forces, which injured dozens of law enforcers of the Punjab police, including the DIG operations Islamabad.
Video circulating on social media — much distributed by official PTI accounts — had showed several bloodied supporters and others struggling to cope with tear gas.
A PTI official had tweeted that there was "an urgent need" for first aid kits at the Zaman Park neighbourhood.
A party account had also showed video of teargas canisters landing inside Khan's garden, but police did not appear to breach the gate or the wall.
"We are here basically to execute the warrants and to arrest him," Islamabad police DIG Syed Shahzad Nadeem Bukhari told reporters Tuesday outside Khan's residence.
Officers were met by hundreds of Khan supporters, some wielding sticks and hurling stones, draped in the red-and-green PTI flags.
Police fired a water cannon and tear gas on the crowds as they attempted to clear a path to Khan's house, holding signs plastered with the arrest warrant for the 70-year-old opposition leader.
With additional input from AFP
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